Four health boards need £71m government bailout

Shona Robison
Image caption Shona Robison was under pressure over the financial failings at NHS Tayside as health secretary

Four NHS boards will need loans to balance their budgets this year, Scottish ministers have confirmed.

NHS Tayside, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Highland and NHS Borders require £70.9m of loans, known as "brokerage", to fill funding gaps.

They may take two to three years to return to a financial balance.

The Scottish government has published a "balance sheet" stating the financial position of all 22 NHS boards for the first time.

After a scandal at NHS Tayside that saw management using charity cash to pay for general running costs, it was announced in May that the government would collate and publish the finances of NHS boards every month.

'Transparent and open'

The health secretary at the time, Shona Robison, who quit this week, said the move would provide "greater transparency and accountability".

The Scottish government said the health budget for 2018-19 was £13.1bn.

The first set of statistics show NHS boards are currently forecasting a funding gap of £131.5m by the end of 2018/19, with a current deficit of £34.6m for the first two months.

But the Scottish government said the gap is expected to reduce throughout the financial year as boards find areas for further savings.

As part of annual financial plans, they have already identified a requirement to save a total of £488m to balance their books.

NHS Tayside: What happened?

Image copyright NHS Tayside
Image caption Lesley McLay and Prof John Connell were replaced as chief executive and chairman of NHS Tayside in April

Then Health Secretary Shona Robison stepped in when it was revealed the board at NHS Tayside had used charity cash from the board's endowment fund to pay for running costs including a new IT system.

The chairman and chief executive were replaced.

Ms Robison said there was no evidence to suggest other boards had misused endowment funding, however the crisis prompted calls for greater transparency.

While all health boards publish their financial position locally, the Scottish government pledged to publish details of all boards every month.

Friday's figures are the first time the results have been published.

Incoming Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: "Scotland's health service is receiving record funding that is providing historically high numbers of doctors, nurses and dentists, plus a proposed pay deal for the majority of staff that is the highest in the UK.

"There is rising demand on our NHS, with increased expectations and an ageing population, so it is crucial we have a transparent and open approach to finances.

"I expect all health boards to continue to develop their plans and work towards delivering a balanced financial position over the course of the remaining financial year, while ensuring they provide safe and effective care and deliver best value for money."

'Underfunded and undervalued'

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "The financial pressures facing NHS boards have developed on the SNP's watch, and we now need SNP ministers to get a grip on the dire financial situation they've created and which is now impacting on the ability of NHS Scotland to deliver health and social care across Scotland."

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "This report confirms what SNP ministers are desperately trying to hide - Scotland's NHS is underfunded, staff are undervalued and the health service desperately needs to be under new management."

"As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday, it is clearer than ever that the service needs better support."

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